This post is about my recent visit to the tallest ancient tower in Delhi, the Qutub Minar or Qutb Minar.
The Qutub Complex is built over the ruins of Lalkot city. This city was constructed by King Anangpal Tomar in the eleventh century and there were many Hindu temples.
Prithviraj Chauhan III or Rai Pithora built Quila Rai Pithora as an extension to Lalkot city.
In the 12th century around 1192, Muhammed Ghori conquered the city of Lalkot and placed Qutb-Ud-Din Aibak as his viceroy.
The Mughal Emperor Qutb-Ud-Din Aibak laid foundations of the Qutub Complex in 1192 and built the first storey of the Qutub Minar.
Qutub Minar is the tallest brick minar in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Mehrauli, Delhi and one of the most visited monuments in India.
This tower structure is 73 meters tall and has 379 steps in the form of a spiral staircase. The emperor’s successor Shamsuddin Iltutmish, who was also the son-in-law of Qutb-Ud-Din Aibak, built the next three storeys. Now, there were four storeys in this tower.
The emporer named the high tower after himself. However, some say that it got its name from a saint Qutubddin Bakhtiar Kaki.
Later, a lightning strike destroyed the top storey leaving just three.
Then in 1369, Firoz Shah Tuglaq repaired it and added two more storeys.
Another Mughal emperor Sher Shah Suri added his name to the list of constructors of this complex when he built an entrance to this tower.
In 1505, an earthquake damaged the tower. This time Sikander Lodhi repaired it. After that, in 1803, an earthquake again hit it and seriously damaged the structure.
The architecture of this minaret is similar to Minaret of Jam, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Afghanistan, however, each Mughal emperor involved in the construction of this tower built it as they liked.
The first two emperors built columns of pale red sandstone, separated by flanges and balconies. For the fourth storey, the emperor used marble and it was relatively plain. For the fifth storey, they used marble and sandstone.
The flanges are dark sandstone engraved with the Quran text and other decorative elements.
The Quwwat-Ul-Islam mosque was the first mosque built in Delhi. Qutb-Ud-Din Aibak started the construction of this mosque in 1192 along with the construction of Qutub Minar.
The mosque was built over the ruins of a temple. The pillars in the mosque still have the Hindu motifs.
Alai Darwaza (Alai Gate)
The southern gate of Quwwat-Ul-Islam mosque is Alai Darwaza (gate). Alaud-Din Khilji made it as an extension to the mosque in the 14th century.
He extended the mosque on the north-south and on the east and that’s when this gateway came into existence.
This gateway is a magnificent building of marble and red sandstone with the Quranic text.
The Mughal emperor Alaud-Din Khilji built a tomb for himself. There was a dome where his tomb is but now it has lost it. It is said that his body was brought here to be buried in front of the mosque.
He also built a madrasa (college) adjacent to his tomb. Most of the rooms of the madrasa are still intact as they were restored.
He was one of the most ambitious emperors of his time. He wanted to build a minaret double in dimensions to that of Qutub Minar.
Sultan Alaud-Din-Khilji started building this tower. He wanted it to be double in dimensions (in terms of diameter and height) but he died and could not even complete the first storey. After him, none of his successors took up the task. This unfinished minaret is 24.5 meters in height.
Extension By Iltutmish and His Tomb
Shamsuddin Iltutmish made an extension to the Qutub Complex.
He also built a tomb for himself in around 1235. Its area is 9 square meters. This tomb had a dome also once but had fallen. Later, Firoz Shah Tuglaq constructed another one but even that also did not survive.
The inside the tomb, there is a white marble mihrab, engraved with the Quranic text, this was used to offer prayers.
The emperor used the materials from the Hindu and Jain temples to build this complex.
The Iron Pillar
In the courtyard of Quwwat-Ul-Islam mosque stands an iron pillar weighing around 6000 Kg. It was set up in the memory of Chandra Gupta-II and King Anangpal Tomar brought it to Delhi.
It is 24 feet in height including the 3 feet below the ground. Made of corrosion-free wrought iron had a Garuda fitted into the deep hole at its top. This pillar was situated on the hill known as Vishnupada.
Until 1850, even with the advancement of technology, such a pillar could not be produced.
This pillar is a metallurgical marvel of ancient India and is a unique example of metallurgical research.
Tomb of Imam Zamin
Saint Imam Zamin (Saint Muhammed Ali) was from Turkestan and came to India during the rule of Sikander Lodi.
He built a tomb for himself and died after a year. The tomb was built during the reign of the Mughal emperor Humayun.
This 24 square feet structure has a dome rising from an octagonal drum.
In 1919, the Archaeological Survey of India erected Sanderson’s Sundial in the memory of Sanderson. He was a superintendent of the ASI.
He conducted extensive excavations at the Qutub Complex and was also involved in repair and conservation works at the site. He was killed in action in France.
The sundial has an inspiring verse inscribed on it which means “The Shadow Passes, The Light Remains.”
A Bit More About the Complex
The minaret has withstood many earthquakes for the last 800 years or so but now it tilted about 65 cm. Though it is within safe limits. However, now the monitoring may be necessary due to rainwater seepage that can further weaken the foundation.
The visitors were allowed to visit the top of the minaret but during an accident in 1981, where around 45-50 were killed in a stampede. Since then the access to the tower is closed to the public.
The architecture of Qutub Minar in Delhi was an inspiration for the architecture styles of other minarets built after it.
The Qutub Minar is featured on the tokens and the cards issued by the DMRC (Delhi Metro Rail Corporation).
The complex was a pit stop during the second leg of The Amazing Race Australia.
One of the Bollywood actors wanted to use the tower to shoot one of his songs but due to the narrow passage, the crew could not carry big and heavy equipment to the top of the minaret. They had to use a replica of the tower for the shoot.
Ways to get to the Qutub Complex
In my previous post about Delhi Red Fort, I suggested Delhi Metro as the best option to travel around Delhi.
So the first option to reach this complex is Delhi Metro. Because you not only avoid traffic jams but also save time and money. To get detailed information about the token price and the cost of the card, you can visit DMRC (Delhi Metro Rail Corporation). You can plan your travel also as the website gives you the list of all the metro stations.
The nearest metro station is Qutub Minar metro station. From there, you need to take an auto to the complex. The charges are normally Rs. 50, but you might have to negotiate sometimes.
The second option is that you book a bus tour operated by Delhi Tourism. These tours start in the morning and in the afternoon. The per person ticket price and the tour timings are as follows:
- Full Day Sight Seeing Tour (Morning): The tour starts at 9:00 AM and normally ends at 5:45 PM. The per person ticket price including taxes is Rs. 475.
- Half Day Sight Seeing Tour (Morning): This tour also starts at 9:00 AM and ends at 1:30 PM. The per person ticket cost is Rs. 290 including taxes.
- Half Day Sight Seeing Tour (Afternoon): The timings for this tour are from 2:15 PM to 5:45 PM. And the ticket cost is Rs. 290 including taxes.
Note: Both tours that start at 9:00 in the morning take you to the Qutub Complex and many other monuments. For complete information and booking, please visit, Delhi Tourism.
Tips for visiting the Qutub Complex
- The ticket cost is Rs. 35 per person for the Indians, SAARC and BIMSTEC visitors and Rs. 550 per person for foreign visitors. If you are planning a trip to the complex, you can book your tickets on yatra.com, it helps you avoid long queues at the ticket counters.
- Edibles are not allowed inside the complex.
- You can carry your camera.
- The complex opens at 8:00 AM till 6:00 PM. However, the ticket counter closes at 5:30 PM.
I strongly recommend you must visit this place once if you are in Delhi or planning to visit Delhi. This historical monument is an ancient marvel that came to being around 800 years ago during the Muslim rule in India.
Did you like this post, why not share it? Have any questions or suggestions? Please comment!